The Agile Organization Solution
Having discussed why organizations arranged along functional boundaries (e.g. production or engineering, operations, infrastructure, QA, etc) and multi-disciplinary Agile teams are often at odds and counterproductive, we now propose a method of organizing product teams more aligned with the Agile process and Agile methods.
The potential solution is really very simple. The design goals behind the solution are: maximization of individual capabilities of any given team to quickly and efficiently create solutions and solve problems; creation of ownership of individual products (or portions of products) and the business success metrics associated with that product in order to maximize innovation; maximization of morale through a sense of ownership and delegation of decision making; and reduction in time to market through the elimination of non-value added conflict.
The solution is clear given these goals – eliminate functional organizations and align the organization to architecture specific services. In the ideal case, each of the senior leaders of these organizations are capable of owning and leading one more complete agile teams. The number of teams that an executive has is likely going to depend on the size of the company, the size of the engineering and product teams and the number of discrete services in the company’s product architecture.
Here we come to a very important point – it is critically important that the architecture, the process and the organization structure be aligned to reap the benefits of such a change. If the product architecture continues to be monolithic, nothing is solved. The solution described above will get you no further than an “agile overlay across functional organizations”. Each division of agile teams needs to own their own services so that disputes, problems and opportunities can be resolved or capitalized within the team. This rapid resolution starts to slow down when outside resources are necessary to resolve a problem or capitalize on an opportunity.
We readily admit that this new approach to eliminating functional organizations in favor of agile teams isn’t for everyone. Some companies don’t have the need to segment their architectures into services as they aren’t experiencing rapid growth. As such, they shouldn’t pay the price of re-architecting their product. Some companies deliver to very clearly defined specifications and as a result can’t really benefit from the product discovery aspects inherent to Agile or the questionable “final dates”. These companies are probably better off continuing to develop in a waterfall fashion. Many companies won’t have the right skill sets at the top to have former functional executives own product sections.
This last issue sets up a topic for another post. The question we aim to answer is “What are the qualities and attributes of the Agile Executive?”